Photo credit: Biltmore (cropped)
9 Fairy-Tale Castles to Visit in the U.S.
April 24, 2019
Even if you forgot to renew your passport or if the international airfare prices are too steep for your wallet, you do not have to give up on your dreams of romantic castles and chateaus straight out of fairy tales. France, England, and Germany may be better known than the good ol’ US of A when it comes to grand homes and turrets, but there is plenty to explore on this side of the Atlantic too.
What they lack in age compared to their overseas counterparts, American castles make up for in luxury and extravagance. Wealthy industrial magnates and finance tycoons pulled their inspiration from their European Grand Tours to build homes fit for these kings and queens of the New World. Thanks to their bottomless pockets and their boundless imagination, there is no need to jet set over the pond to “ohh" and "ahh" at the wonders of fairy tale-like palaces.
Here are nine of the most beautiful castles you can visit (and even, in some cases, spend the night in) on your next stateside adventure.
If you think this glorious Tudor-style mansion looks like it was transported straight from England, it' because it was. Banker Chester Thorne fell in love with the 400-year-old manor on the Old Continent in 1908 and dismantled it stone by stone to be shipped over and rebuilt on his estate in the Pacific Northwest.
Now an award-winning Inn, the grand home includes hundreds of priceless architectural elements and antique art pieces to feat the atmosphere, including glasswork, statues, and a delightful sunken garden. So, save hundreds of dollars on international airfare and splurge on a night in an authentic English mansion instead.
San Simeon, CA
One of the most famous and extravagant U.S. castles was built over nearly three decades by the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. The aptly named “Cuesta Encantada” (Spanish for Enchanted Hill) is a fantastic compound in Spanish revival style, including over 165 rooms spread over a grand house and several cottages for honored guests, and 123 acres of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways.
Although the houses and grounds themselves are breathtaking, the legendary art collection they showcase is just as extraordinary.
There are few families as fit for the title of American royalty as the Vanderbilt, and they certainly built a home to match. Often referred to as "America's largest private home," the French Renaissance chateau-inspired mansion would not look out of place in the Loire Valley. Besides the gigantic Gilded Age home, which covers over four acres of floor space, you can also visit the sprawling gardens and sample wine produced on the estate’s award-winning vineyard.
Built for Otto Kahn, the man who inspired the Monopoly, for the equivalent of $110 million in today’s money, the Long Island mansion was once the place to be. After falling in disarray when it was abandoned at the end of the 1970s, Oheka castle was painstakingly restored and is now a luxury hotel.
The only royal residence on U.S. soil, the Iolani Palace was the home of Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs. It was built as a way to promote the Kingdom of Hawaii’s prestige and takes its inspiration both from European palaces and Hawaii’s unique architecture. It is now a museum open for visitors.
Although it looks like it would fit right in medieval Europe, Hammond Castle was actually built in the late 1920s to serve both as the private residence of inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr. and host his extensive collection of art objects, which spans from the Roman era to the Renaissance. The castle is now open to the public so you can explore the incredible display which includes secret passageways and a courtyard partially made of medieval storefronts to look like an ancient village. It might even house a couple of ghosts, including Hammond himself who was fascinated by the occult.
Castle Farms was built by the acting President of Sears, Roebuck and Company, Albert Loeb, in 1918. It was conceived as an extremely fancy showroom for the heavy farm equipment available through the Sears and Roebuck catalog. The impressive building, inspired by the stone barns and castles found in Normandy, France, also included an active model dairy farm. It is now a local attraction that not only features tours of the castle itself, but also a model railroad, several gardens, and a World War I Museum.
Castello di Amorosa
Nestled in the lovely Napa Valley, the beautiful Castello di Amorosa is an elegant 13th-century Tuscan castle winery. Despite being fairly recent (construction began in 1994), the owner was determined to make it as authentic as possible and only used “old, hand-made materials and built it employing the same methods and materials that would have been used 700-800 years ago”. Fifteen years later, you can now visit the winery which features a moat, drawbridge, towers, high defensive ramparts, courtyards and loggias, a chapel, stables, an armory, and even a torture chamber.
Alexandria Bay, NY
The ever romantic Boldt Castle was built as a Rhineland-inspired summer home by hotel magnate George C. Boldt for his beloved wife, Louise. The grand estate included a 120-room castle, complete with tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, a drawbridge, alster tower (children’s playhouse), and a dove cote. Unfortunately, Louise passed away before the construction was completed and Boldt, heartbroken, never finished it. For over 70 years, the property was abandoned until the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired it and spent millions bringing it back to its former glory. It is now open to visitors.
Written by Alix Barnaud for Knockaround.